Wednesday, 30 March 2011

News Flashing | The Shining 2: Who Knew?

This March, Stephen King made the news. Twice.

The first time, it was to announce his next annual novel. 11.22.63 will be along in early November, and it's another brick of a book; a tome like Under the Dome which seems to be King's spin on The Time Traveller's Wife, and The Lake House.

So the story goes, English teacher Jake Epping is transported "from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of Elvis and JFK, of Plymouth Fury cars and Lindy Hopping, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake's life - a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time."

When news of 11.22.63 broke, you didn't even have to listen particularly closely to hear the arching of certain critics' eyebrows, which was, in and of itself, pretty sickening. Me? I'll reserve judgement till I've actually read the book. And you can be sure I'll read it; that's pretty much a given. Short a few years' time out from King's work when I foolishly let the aforementioned critical snobbery that seems to cling to this author like bad gas get the better of me, I've always read Stephen King. Probably I always will.

But here's hoping his next isn't all mouth and no trousers like Under the Dome.

I suppose if it is, there's always his next next novel. Because within the week, King had trumped himself, announcing The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole on his official website [wiki]. Set between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla, the notion of this lost chapter in the life and times of Roland Deschain moves me perhaps less than by all rights it should, for I have read all seven volumes of The Dark Tower... though I fell increasingly out of love with the series as it approached its endgame.

I don't have particularly much to say about The Wind Through the Keyhole, either. So why the post? You must be wondering. Well, here's why.

In short, once King has polished off The Dark Tower 4.5, it's looking pretty bloody likely that Doctor Sleep will be his - wait for it - next next next project. And what is Doctor Sleep?

"Now aged 40, [Danny Torrance] works at a hospice for the terminally ill in upstate New York. He is... an orderly at the hospice, but his real work is to help make death a little easier for the dying patients with his psychic powers – while making a little money on the side by betting on the horses."

So The Shining 2: Shine Harder. Or maybe Son of The Shining - that'd be pretty apt.

What. The. Fuck.

Probably I've made my feelings as regards such a sequel clear as crystal already, but let's make doubly sure: I think it's a terrible idea.

Why? Well, because we're talking about a classic here. A veritable, contemporary genre classic. One of the most important novels King ever wrote. And his track record of late... you know, it hasn't been awful - sure enough he's had worse periods - but it certainly hasn't been great, either. And a sequel to The Shining needs to be truly great for it to stand a chance. For it to do anything other than denigrate our memories of the one and the only, Doctor Sleep needs to be better than anything King has written in decades.

And what are the chances?

Still and all, I can see a sequel to The Shining drawing back a fair few former Stephen King junkies back to the fold. If you're in that position, I wonder: would you welcome such a thing? Or would you prefer that the Grandpa Smurf of supernatural horror left our probably rather idealised imaginings of The Shining well enough alone?


  1. I think one needs to remember that when King writes a sequel it isn't a sequel so much as a wildly different story with perhaps a key figure from an earlier novel in another time of life. Sure, that figure is afflected by the things that have happened in the past but doesn't neccesesarily need to dwell or even touch very often on those previous events. The only time he has written a sequel (and not incorporated figures from past novels in new novels) is "Black House". I could of course be totally wrong but that's the one that pops into mind. "Black House" has the same key figure as "The Talisman" but, as I recall it, he hardly touches on the events in the previous book...

    With that, it is possible that the future adventures of Danny Torrance could be quite fun to follow. Provided that he is able to rise from his slump of recent years, of course.

  2. Ouch. I've been disappointed time and time again with King's new stuff and am trying to just stop reading it...and now this. There's no way I can pass up a Shining sequel, even if I know I'll despise its very existence from page one.